Tag Archives: inbound

Inbound Marketing for SaaS: A Perfect Mutual Fit

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

Remember the days before the Internet? Well if you were born in the pre-Internet era, you might have blurred memories wrapped into your collective psyche on how marketing was back then. Those were the fanciful days before Google, websites, and social media.

As marketing evolved, brands found themselves in a dire need for a low-cost customer acquisition engine. Inbound marketing is that digital marketing model that specializes in attracting website visitors, turning them into leads and nurturing them well enough to convert them into happy customers and further into brand promoters or evangelists.

Setting up your SaaS company for success would call for your attention to both quick wins and long-haul strategies. As a SaaS marketer, you need to implement targeted marketing strategies for highest online conversions.

The SaaS Challenge

Gartner report forecasts SaaS to be at $75.7bn by 2020. This gigantic increase equates to massive competition for SaaS startups, and that adds to the need for your brand to edge out the competition and acquire new customers, while reducing the churn and attaining long-term profits. Further, a Compass study shows that SaaS is growing nearly 3X as fast as software as a whole, and that 72% of all SaaS startups are at least partially funded.

The success of your SaaS company would depend on:

  • Whether you’re able to adopt a low-cost customer acquisition model effectively from the early stages
  • Ability to retain customers over a long span
  • Ability to upsell to customers over time

Now, let’s get to the heart of the SaaS challenge. Most SaaS CEOs cite “cash flow gap” as a grave challenge. Inbound marketing works well to combat this challenge for the SaaS startups. The good news is that inbound marketing has quickly emerged as the right playbook for SaaS companies that rely on a user’s relationship with the software for success (or failure).

A good number of brands like ShopifyBufferKissmetricsAnswerDashZenDesk, to name a few, have attained success with it. However apart from the previously mentioned challenge, I also see some other challenges that obstruct SaaS companies to do marketing right.

  • Not believing in what they’re doing
  • Hiring mediocre talent
  • Being too self-promotional and brand centric
  • Directly targeting the BoFU with free trials/demos, etc.
  • Insufficient time and effort investment into analytics

The Secret Sauce for SaaS Companies

The answer is plain simple – complete focus on customer happiness right from the first touch point until the last to fetch both – revenues and profitability. And, inbound marketing just does that. It helps you find qualified leads, patch them with the sales rep-cum-consultants, convert them into customers and retain them over a long term – a challenge inherent in the SaaS business model. As a result, close rates go up and cost per lead comes down.

The SaaS long game and Inbound Fit

Life Time Value (LTV) = ARPA (Average Revenue Per Account)*% Gross Margin / % Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)

The SaaS industry is often abuzz with the discussions around customer lifetime value (LTV).

The longer the customer stays with you, the more is the LTV. It’s a long game, indeed. And, the same holds true for inbound marketing too.

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

The best SaaS marketers do, indeed, love to play a good long game. Even when they get off to a sluggish start, they do not retreat. In fact, they multiply their efforts. In fact, Sebastian Gutierrez (a member of HubSpot’s nonprofit team) says, “Becoming a trusted authority doesn’t happen with one banner ad or annual report. Succeeding with inbound marketing takes consistent effort over the long haul. Inbound really is the only marketing that’s proven to be cost-effective, yet it takes time to see results.”

The SaaS Inbound Journey

Clement Vouillon has remarkably captured a “typical” Inbound Marketing journey that an early stage SaaS company might experience.

Stage 1: Preparation / Beginning Phase

Most SaaS startups often kick start inbound marketing with limited resources, with founders as the blog authors, who love to talk about their babies (I mean products here!). That’s a classical mistake indeed. Your blog is out there to help your target audience and not for blowing your own trumpet (though it might sound tempting or obvious). Inbound marketing is all about being helpful through content. It ought to be customer centric.

Stage 2: Disappointment

You’ve pulled the content gear but you don’t yet see traffic increasing, and it’s natural to feel that your inbound marketing efforts are not working out. It’s time to actually chart out an effective plan to content distribution and then implement it efficiently.

Many marketers have been observed not investing efforts in content promotion. They seem to harbor a misconception that only writing remarkable content will do the job and that they can relax after production. It’s to be remembered that distributing or promoting the content is equally important for your useful content assets to be discovered by your target audience on their preferred choice of platforms.

Stage 3: Growth

You’re thorough with all the best practices, tips and hacks on content production and distribution. It’s time to adapt to each of the platforms where you intend to promote your content and invest your efforts in getting more people to see your content. Slowly, you start getting to see the increasing number of views, likes, share or comments in response to your posts across different platforms. The key to magic is here to be creative and bold. Don’t fear from being experimental.

Stage 4: Stagnation

You will see increased traffic to your website, content assets and social media posts; however, the conversions might suck and do not seem to improve over time. That’s when fatigue might set in your team to see what strategy worked for you some time ago is no longer effective now. Your inspiration well also might start to dry up. This is a signal to take a step back, deliberate before you burn out and tweak your inbound marketing strategy

Stage 5: Strategy reboot

By the time you reach this stage, you would have acquired good amount of knowledge about your customers and industry as a whole, and you’d be infusing all your knowledge into your marketing game but still not seeing the desired results. It’s time to reboot your marketing strategy and consider:

  • Sending your corporate newsletter
  • Collect more feedback through emails/blogs
  • Investing more on the SEO front for the long-term gains
  • Devising and implementing more customer-centric campaigns
  • Repurpose your most valuable content assets in different digestible formats
  • Participate and add value on different social media groups and forums
  • Nurture your leads with value-added content
  • Hire skilled and adaptable generalists and specialists

Stage 6: Growth

If by now you have learned from your past mistakes, organized your affairs again and pulled the inbound gears again in the right direction, you will again witness the spur in growth. Enjoy the success!

With this, it’s time to look at these two SaaS inbound marketing myths that I feel the need to bust here:

Myth 1: Inbound marketing is free

Agreed. You can produce and publish content, optimize content to boost traffic and conversions with little investment. However, creating a long-term, solid inbound marketing strategy and roadmap is NOT free. You need to manage and maintain your website, you need resources (team and tools) to connect and engage with your target audience. All this won’t be free.

Myth 2: One person can do all inbound marketing

It’s not uncommon to see many CEOs getting pumped up about inbound marketing to grow their businesses. But here’s the shocker! One marketing hire to do it all. Inbound marketing is basically a culmination of different skill sets – content writing, SEO, social media, website design and development, analytics, video marketing, etc., – all rolled into one. It’s practically impossible to find one person adept at all of these skill sets. You need a team. A real good one to rock the inbound marketing stage.

What other tips or feedback would you add to this post? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below!

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Modern Consumer’s Buying Behavior Has Changed: Has Your Marketing?

pre roll ads

5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … Skip Ad > >

I so hate this drill, especially when I hop on to YouTube to watch a Tom Cruise video. I literally despise these pre-roll ads. These ads are so annoyingly right in my face.

I didn’t log in to YouTube to watch a father scolding his son for losing his laptop and then the son buying a refurbished laptop from a popular ecommerce website (Ad Name: “As Good as New”). Though I’m an online shopaholic but at my own convenience and desired time. I mean I don’t love that shopping portal enough to come in between Tom Cruise (virtually) and me and hamper my video-watching experience like that.

I hate such brands that do NOT seek my permission and expose me to their marketing messages hundred times a day. This triggers a barrage of questions in my mind about their marketing strategy (and their marketers in particular!).

I feel so fortunate as a marketer in my career to have seen traditional marketing getting redundant and less effective in the last decade and subsequently wiped out by permission-based marketing in last 2-3 years. According to an Adobe study, marketing has changed more in the last 2 years than in the last 50 years.

As marketers, we need to acknowledge and respect the fact that with technology adoption gaining pace with each passing day, people are are getting better at blocking out these interruptions.

  • TV ads…We’ve TiVO/DVRs to skip advertisements. I so love Netflix’s House of Cards, free of advertising.
  • Radio ads…Users have XM/Sirius Radio/Pandora/Spotify to cut their advertising reach
  • Unsolicited (cold calls)…Fortunately, we’ve national Do Not Call Registry.
  • Spammy emails ….I routinely employ spam filters.

As a matter of fact, a large number of organizations are still not convinced about the merits of permission-based marketing for two reasons:

  • Their otherwise expensive outbound methods have fetched results for them so far. So new approach means new risk to revenues. And, not many are risk takers.
  • Permission-based marketing requires investment in terms of resources, effort, time and money. And, most of all, PATIENCE for long-term rewards.

So, such brands resort to “spray and pray approach” and thus still do “batch and blast” email campaigns and pray for leads online. And when the results do not pour in, it feels like as depicted in the picture below.

inbound

I love this brilliant quote from Dharmesh Shah, cofounder HubSpot

The bottom line is that people are now wary of traditional outbound marketing messages and adept at blocking outbound marketers out. Netizens now learn about and shop from brands in a new way – through search engines, blogosphere and social media sites.

To be successful in today’s times, we need to match our marketing mannerisms to the way our prospects gather information and shop for our products.

How?

Generate leads through #Inbound marketing and target customers with relevance marketing.

inbound-versus-outbound_strategy_quote

Options for marketers:

Why Inbound Marketing? Why Now?

Having spent good 8 years in online marketing domain and worked with multinational companies of high repute and also dozens remote service buyers, I can say with authority that Inbound Marketing Methodology is here to stay.

inbound_vs_outbound_marketing_infographic_facebook_thumbnail

With all the digital noise around and benefits of embracing inbound marketing being thrown in the faces of marketers day-in and day-out, companies seem to be inclined towards adopting it but largely suffer from the lack of patience required to let inbound do its magic and yield results. Without team, budget and other resources required to build a good inbound marketing team and cultivating content culture within the company, most CMOs seem to be in a rush to see skyrocketing figures on metrics charts from the word “GO”. I know, I know, there’s lots of pressure from the top but believe it or not, inbound does take time, indeed lots of time. Why? Simply, because it does not treat Customers as entries in the CRM or marketing contacts databases. It focuses on talking to customers as HUMANS and triggering interactions not between brands and customers, but HUMANS and HUMANS across both the sides of the conversation. And, you know good HUMAN relationships do take time to get built and nurtured.

Back to the blog title – Why Inbound, why now?

Gone are the days when as a marketer, you could be inconsiderate to interrupt your audiences anytime, anywhere with your cold calls, cold emails (better to call them SPAMS), annoying ads, etc. This was the outbound or tradition way of marketing, which has now gotten replaced with new-age marketing or INBOUND MARKETING, which is customer centric and that uses content as a beacon to attract audiences and help them find your brand on their own. That’s why we call it “inbound” after all. inbound-marketing-image

Customers or buyers are more connected and informed than ever. Most of them have already researched well before they find your brand to connect with. So they will make their purchase decisions, whether you reach them or not. So, it’s best to adopt a marketing strategy that acts like a magnet and help them find you while they are aggressively researching for solutions to their problems/needs.

Here it’s important to know that to formulate a successful inbound marketing strategy, you got to know your target audiences, really really well before you empower them with information or means to find your brand and engage with your products/services.

  1. Create Buyer persona
  2. Study Buyer Journey
  3. Create remarkable, helpful content
  4. Leverage that content

It’s not enough to create great content. It’s equally important to get that content out in the world. Content distribution adds context to your content. And, content + context = successful inbound marketing. Right?

More about Inbound Marketing in my next blog…….Stay tuned!

Decoding the Secrets of Successful Content Writers

content-creation-curation-tips

I love to strut around poofy-chested, when my work wins me plaudits. All inbound marketers do. Content creation and marketing go hand in hand. Content forms the core of inbound marketing methodology today.

Though many content creators buckle under the pressure of hammering out content real fast, and produce boring, mediocre quality content, there are some, who’re real good content creators. So what are those habits that help these content builders produce top-notch, relevant and remarkable content?

So before you run your fingers on the keyboard next time, take a glance at few habits, which only successful content creators have. Those you’re not going to cultivate these overnight, still if you start realizing their importance, you’ll be starting your journey to become a rockstar content creator.

1)    Read, Read and Read

Creating valuable content calls for extensive reading. Reading what? Industry-related news, insights, reports, case studies, competitors’ content and lots more.  A good content creator skims the entire web for the most relevant industry news and squeezes the same to craft a stellar copy, back with cues and facts. Such content is most likely to resonate with your target audiences.

Start bookmarking and using saving all the data on cloud. Set Google alerts of industry-specific keywords to receive relevant content in your Inbox daily. Figure out where your target audience spends most time online, and monitor those online destinations daily.

2)    A Copy a Day Keeps the Writer’s Block away

Losing the knack of writing is quite easy. If you don’t write for long, next time when you sit up to write, you might end up gazing at your computer’s screen without the cursor moving by even an inch. It’s vital to flex your writing muscles every day. This keeps up the constant inflow of ideas, and your fingers churning out good content regularly. If in the humdrum of corporate marathon, you don’t get the time to write a well-structured blog post every day, you can at least set apart half an hour every day, when you can pen down your thoughts, ideas or something of your choice. Grab a coffee and do some free style writing every day so that you don’t have to face that most dreaded, big monster anytime – Writer’s block.

3)    Network

It’s useless to highlight the profound significance of networking in this digital marketing era. A good content creator is one, who’s open to connect with seniors, peers, thought leaders and industry experts to listen to their ideas and observe their work methodologies. Seize the zillion opportunities of networking on different professional networks and forums. Keep an eye on the posts shared by them and skim these to filter out useful information to enrich your knowledge, and use the same while you produce content in the future.

4)    Curate Only Good Content

Today, anyone and everyone is curating content . What distinguishes successful content creators from millions of self-proclaimed content wizards is their zeal to cement their stature as experts, who love to interact with their target community effectively on the Internet. Add a layer of value, when you curate content, and give your community remarkable, engaging and useful information. They are going to love it, and you’ll see your content sparking debates and discussion thereby making your content curation turn into an interactive session (Bonus!)

5)    Be Curious

Great content creators crave for more and more information to quench their curiosity. It’s their  solid analytical abilities that help them to decrypt the gained knowledge and draw inferences and valuable insights to craft useful content. Curiosity, deeply embedded in their nature, is something that makes them stand out from the crowd as they dare to question the status quo of anything and everything that’s happening around them. Critical thinking stems from their curious nature and makes them great content contributors.

Post your opinion in the comment box below if you want to add some more habits of successful content creators. Your suggestions are precious to me and would help me hone my content writing skills.